If you don’t remember, I made the lead single, “Get Free (ft. Amber Coffman of Dirty Projectors)” a track of the moment a few months back when it was release. That was also when I learned that holy fucking shit I would have another 4 months before the album came out. And then another 2 before it really came out. So was it worth the delay? Short answer – yes.
As explained in the previous article, Diplo is about 60% great businessman, 40% amazing producer, and 100% sexy when he’s on his suit and tie shit. Plus, he’s one of the hardest working DJ’s on earth. He once did a stunt where he played 4 1-hour shows, in 4 different cities, on the same night, traveling by helicopter. He produces a ton of tracks for himself and other artists on his label, produces for other people, constantly tours, runs his label Mad Decent, runs his other label Jeffrees, and, you know, eats and sometimes sleeps, I guess.
For this album, Diplo recruits only the finest of guest stars to sing/rap/co-produce with him. Santifold, dubsteppers Flux Pavilion, Danielle Haim (from the trio Haim), Amber Coffman, Ezra Koenig (from Vampire Weekend), Wyclef Jean. Shaggy also makes a return as a possessive (and possibly abusive) boyfriend on “Keep Cool”. I like to pretend that it’s a sequel to “It Wasn’t Me”, where Shaggy is arguing with his girl, Wynter Gordon, who gives some amazing vocals on the track. Also Burno Mars and Tyga are on this album. I would have thrown them into the earlier group, but that would imply that they’re good.
What I find interesting is that there’s no consistent sound between the tracks. I mean, it feels like a Diplo track, but other than that, there’s no overarching theme or sound Free the Universe has. You go from quiet, reserved tracks like “Get Free” or “Jessica (ft. Ezra Koenig)”, then move to dancehall bangers like “Wind Up” and “Mashup the Dance”, to club beats like “Bubble Butt (ft. Bruno Mars, Tyga, and Mystic)” and “Jah No Partial (ft. Flux Pavilion)”. And then there’s the cheesy, hokey, stupid songs like “Reach for the Stars” who features the king of hokey “inspirational” songs, Wyclef Jean. The track order, the vast difference of styles, and the features kind of reminds me of the mediocre Cruel Summer from last year, although I will say that I like the Free the Universe much better, mostly for the great production.
However, I can’t shake the feeling that this whole album is just an ad for Diplo. There’s no consistency to any of the songs – yeah, you could say this albums is a journey around a Caribbean island, weaving through clubs, ghettos, bars, beaches, and quiet evenings in the forests and fields, and you wouldn’t be wrong. And for a Philly-born white kid who’s stage name comes from a dinosaur, it’s impressive how he can transport a completely different culture, a different way of life, to you, wherever you are, merely through sound. But I can’t help but think that a lot of this is to show off how talented of a producer Diplo is, and the fact no matter what kind of music you make, Diplo is the guy to go to for help. And it kind of lessens the album in my eyes from a well-crafted, well-produced, exciting album to a well-crafted, well-produced, exciting commercial. Not to say there can’t be, or isn’t any value to that, but it just makes the album lose something in my eyes.
So, overall, it’s a fantastic album, and you should be able to find at least one or two singles you can jam out to. And if you can look past that advertisement aspect, it’s a truly great EDM album that deserves a spot in your collection. Except for "Bubble Butt". Great production, horrible lyrics.